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Friday, August 28, 2009

What is the Relationship Among These Structures: A Congregation of Life-Long Learners, a JPLC and a Jewish Community of Cooperative Learners?

What is the Relationship Among These Structures: A Congregation of Life-Long Learners, a Jewish Professional Learning Community (JPLC) and a Jewish Community of Cooperative Learners?

The ideal educational setting in which to be a mentor teacher is within a congregation that is committed to life-long learning, a school that is a Jewish professional learning and within a classroom that is a community of cooperative learners. Let's explore these structures and their connections more thoroughly.

A congregation of life-long learners is one that studies and lives Torah. A Jewish professional learning community (JPLC) is a school in which the administration, teachers and students, all investigate life’s eternal questions. A Jewish community of cooperative learners is a classroom where these questions are addressed. Ideally, the mission and values of the congregation inspire the Jewish professional learning community (i.e. members of the school) to teach its students how to live those values within and outside of the classroom. Each Jewish structure thus is inextricably linked and reinforces the other.

* Jack Wertheimer, (2005) describes contemporary Jewish educational institutions as vertical silos which have their own missions and goals and operate independently of each other. He suggests that Jewish leaders need to reconceptualize the manner by which Jewish educational institutions function so that they are more directly connected to and supportive of each other. Dr. Wertheimer writes:

Education is not a separate sphere of Jewish life; it is integral to how American Jews live today.... Overlapping circles of learners, parents, members of extended families, fellow synagogue congregants, peer groups, educators, and communal leaders all interact with one another in the activities of Jewish education. This means that beyond the cognitive knowledge and the skills they teach, Jewish educational settings are central to the way American Jews construct their lives and communities today. Precisely because of these important interconnections in the actual lives of average Jews, leaders concerned with Jewish education must find ways to build institutional linkages between various formal and informal educational programs, between families and schools, between educators in various venues, between the key communal agencies engaged in support of Jewish education. The field of Jewish education is currently based on a loose, barely connected network of autonomous educating institutions. Each operates as a silo.... The current challenge in the field of Jewish education is to link the silos, to build cooperation across institutional lines and thereby enable learners to benefit from mutually reinforcing educational experiences ….

Thus, the values and behaviors of (a) the members of the congregation; (b) the teachers who instruct our children; and (c) the students in our supplemental and day schools should be mutually reinforcing.

* Wertheimer, J. (2005). Linking the Silos: How to Accelerate the Momentum in Jewish Education Today. New York, New York, NY: The AVI CHAI Foundation.

In the next post we will start a new section on the blog and begin discussing this challenging question; What Judaic knowledge should be taught in our supplemental and day schools?

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